$80K fine, prison sentence for illegal 10 tonne catch in Marine Park Zone

A commercial fisher has been given a nine month prison sentence and ordered to pay $80,000 after he was caught illegally trawling in protected marine habitat off the coast of Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island).

This is the largest penalty in Queensland’s history for illegally fishing in southern marine parks, and is a result of a joint investigation by Fisheries Queensland, Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, and the Queensland Police Service.

Between 29 June and 3 July 2022, the vessel illegally caught about 10 tonnes of stout whiting from the Moreton Bay Marine Park ‘green zone’ before it was intercepted by Queensland water police and Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol officers.

GPS data uncovered by Fisheries officers showed the vessel had been trawling in the Marine National Park Zone over the five-day period, catching 694 boxes of fish.

The fisher used a type of net that is designed to sweep the ocean floor, which posed a serious threat to the marine ecosystem and the bottom dwelling plants and animals.

Logbook data uncovered in the investigation showed the fisher had trawled over the same area multiple times, which causes further damage to the already-disturbed ecosystem.

As a result of investigations, a 60-year-old Mooloolaba man was charged with one count each of unlawful serious environmental harm and wilfully using a marine park for a prohibited purpose involving the taking of a natural or cultural resource.

On 3 April 2024, the man pleaded guilty in Cleveland Magistrates Court to both offences.

On Wednesday (8 May 2024), he was handed down a nine month prison sentence, which was wholly suspended for 18 months, and fined $80,000.

He was also ordered to pay $750 in legal costs.

Principal Marine Park Ranger Steve Hoseck said this level of brazen offending was an insult to the conservation status of the marine park.

“Green zones are off limits to fishers for good reason, as they provide critical habitat for marine species including fish, sea turtles, dolphins and dugongs,” Ranger Hoseck said.

“This person has made the greedy decision to not only trawl fish in a green zone but to catch and keep a significant quantity of fish for commercial gain, completely ignoring Queensland laws as well as their own responsibility to the environment.

“QPWS is grateful to Fisheries Queensland and Queensland Police for their speedy response to this harmful behaviour, and we hope today’s outcome sends a strong message to others that we take wilful environmental harm to Queensland marine parks very seriously.”

/Public Release. View in full here.